In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, North Penn School District has begun scrutinizing its security and intruder drills at each school.
According to Jennifer Lawson of The Reporter, North Penn will be boosting its security at school entrances. It is also planning on increasing the number of intruder drills from two per year.
Superintendent Curt Dietrich will discuss security plans and protocols with parents and taxpayers at a community forum on Jan. 7 at 6:45 p.m. in North Penn High School’s auditorium.
Since hearing the first reports on Friday about the horrific school shooting in Connecticut, I have not been able to take my mind off our schools, students and staff, and how I can ensure the safety of everyone. As I watch the news, I am shocked and saddened with each detail.
But I am also watching to learn from the tragic event. Naturally, I compare what was done in Connecticut to what we do in our school district. North Penn School District has for many years had mechanisms and programs in place to help prevent these situations, and recently we have taken additional steps to protect our students and staff. We also have processes and plans in the event that a situation could not be prevented.
Of course we hope we are never in a similar situation, but we must prepare for the worst. To that end, in 2009 veteran police officer Ray Wilson accepted the job of Safe Schools/Security Coordinator position. Our school board also established a Safe Schools board committee. Not many school districts have a safe schools coordinator position and a board committee, and it shows NPSD’s commitment to school safety.
Each year, every school conducts two Intruder Drills that instruct staff and students on exactly what to do in the case of an armed intruder. Similar drills were held at Sandy Hook Elementary Schools and experts are crediting these drills and staff preparedness for saving many lives. In light of Friday’s tragedy we are looking at increasing the number of drills each year. We can never be too prepared.
Just a few weeks ago, a security assessment of all schools was conducted. We have immediately begun revisiting each school to focus on the front entrance and to examine where improvements in the building could increase security.
But I want to stress that NPSD has always made school safety a top priority. Our efforts include:
- Security staff at all secondary schools.
- Buzz in system at every school, except NPHS where a security officer is stationed at the front door.
- The Raptor system to scan every visitor’s driver’s license and check for child predator criminal history.
- Security cameras.
- A county-wide communications system in each building which, with the press of a single button, calls 911.
- Rapid Response trainings with local municipalities and their police force.
- New two-way radios for the use in the event of an emergency.
Our work in keeping our staff and students safe will never end. Next steps include reviewing and improving security at large-scale events, during evening hours and recess, on buses and in the extended school care program. We continue to work with local law enforcement and we are very confident that they are prepared to respond.
Of course I cannot promise that a tragedy will not occur in NPSD. Unfortunately, there are troubled people in this world who will find a way to do harm. Still, NPSD is doing everything possible to secure our buildings and keep everyone safe. We are planning a Community Forum on School Safety for Monday, January 7, starting 6:45 p.m. in the North Penn High School Auditorium, at which time you can learn more about our efforts and give us feedback.
Together, as a community, we must approach the critical issue of safe schools. We all need to be very aware of our surroundings and report any suspicious activity or persons hanging in and around our schools. Rumors and threats to our students must be taken to the proper authorities and not dismissed. Such monitoring and awareness by everyone is absolutely essential to keep our schools safe.
I would be remiss if I did not remark on the heroes both with us and not with us who saved lives on Friday by acting courageously and instinctively to protect children. As educators and public school employees, we put the welfare of children first and always will.
Dr. Curtis Dietrich
Superintendent of Schools